by Zach Montroy
Setting a resolution for the New Year feels promising. Unfortunately, resolutions often amount to merely hopeful thoughts that don’t translate into action. It’s a tale as old as time, and no doubt you’ve had the experience of feeling very excited about a resolution in January and very discouraged by March.
Why can’t we seem to stick to our resolutions? The truth is that habits are stronger than intentions, and just wanting a resolution to happen doesn’t mean it will. Often, there’s nothing behind it other than hope – the resolution isn’t backed by thought, planning, or reflection. These are the elements needed to bring a plan or lifestyle change into fruition.
The Better Way to Achieve Lasting Results
My job is to work with leaders and organizations to enact real, lasting change. Hopes and wishes won’t cut it. I’ve discovered the best way to ensure that change happens is to focus on creating new habits rather than outcomes. I approach the task by helping folks think about solutions rather than resolutions. These shifts may seem small, but they’re significant – and they lead to success.
The problem with resolutions is that they focus only on the end goal, and often neglect the steps required to reach that goal. Without a clear path, you’ll set yourself up for frustration and disappointment when willpower alone isn’t enough to sustain you. Establishing habits isn’t as glamorous as setting resolutions, but it’s an infinitely more practical path.
The Power of Habit
Creating new habits actually helps your brain solidify new neural pathways. It’s the best way to ensure that change sticks around for the long term. Habits are the building blocks of our lives, shaping our thoughts, feelings, and actions. When we set out to create new habits, we’re beginning the journey that will end with the result we want. Once we’ve habituated ourselves to the desired behavior, we can be sure it will last even when desire wanes.
Kickstarting a Habit
Where to start? Begin by picturing your personal or leadership life five or ten years from now. What would you want to be different? What would you want to be true of yourself at that time? What do you need to change or achieve in order to get there? Thinking of solutions helps you to begin to forge a path. It takes your dream from the clouds to the ground.
Deep reflection isn’t a quick process, and you shouldn’t rush it. Take the time to understand what you want to change and why you desire it. This lets you tap into the motivations and values behind the changes you’re seeking.
Break It Down
You’ve likely heard this advice before…and it’s 100% true. Start with small, achievable steps. Track your progress to see what works and what doesn’t. Be patient with yourself – forming new habits takes time and effort, and progress can be slow. For example, rather than setting the resolution to run a marathon, start with the habit of running every morning.
Focus on Progress and Value
Our brains are motivated by reward. Establishing a habit lets you experience small wins very often, rather than holding out until you’re able to achieve the end goal. It’s a great way to stay motivated and keep focused on the prize. In essence, you’re offering your brain a daily bite of carrot rather than trying to stay excited about a whole carrot dangling a year or more into the future.
Need additional help building new habits? Wondering the best place to start within your organization? I’d love to help. Reach out and let’s talk.